Tuesday, January 21, 2014

With a Knick-Knack Paddy Whack

This morning I discovered a dog bone in my horses' paddock.  You know, like a soup bone that someone would throw to a dog.  We don't give our dogs bones, so we knew it had to come from next door, but how did it get into my horse paddock?

My guess was that the raven couple carried it over.  These two ravens have been spending a lot of time around my horses.  I think they've adopted my herd.  If they are around when I ride or walk a horse out into the desert, they squawk in protest over me taking one of their friends away.  If they are in the barn while I am doing chores, I try to get them to mimic the sounds I make.  I noticed that whenever a horse started walking, the ravens would make a clip clop clip clop sound to mimic the horse's hoof beats.  So, I began making a variety of noises and seeing if I could get the ravens to copy me.  Many times they did.

Unfortunately, I created monsters, because now when the ravens see me, they swoop down and make a ruckus, trying to get me to imitate them.  If they are too obnoxious, I ignore them.  If they politely make a quiet, repetitive noise, then I will play and make the same noise back to them.  They let the horses poke them with their noses, but I am not allowed to come closer than 20-feet or so before they fly away, and they are very camera shy.  As soon as I step out onto the porch with my camera, they head for the telephone wires.

They were out with the horses again this afternoon, and I discovered that someone had moved the dog bone from the place I had set it down outside of the horse paddock into the barn.  Bombay was about to put it in his mouth and it was just the right size to choke a horse.  So, now the dog bone is in the trash.  There was no meat on the bone, which led me to believe that the ravens were intentionally giving it to my horses to play with.  I'll bet the ravens spend hours on their perches observing dogs and horses and trying to figure out their differences.

I was under the weather today, so I dragged a chair into the barn and sat down to read a book.  I sat out there for at least an hour, but the horses wouldn't let me get any further than one paragraph in.  Rock and Gabbrielle were practically climbing into my lap, numming everything they could get their lips on that was interesting to them:  My hat, my glasses, my book, my watch, my rings, my shirt, my pants, my shoes, my hair, my chair...

Have you ever nearly been tickled to death by horses?  It was hilarious.  Just when I'd be pushing one horse's muzzle away, the other one would come in and start tickling me.  Gabbrielle licked an entire page of my book.  They both kept taking my hat off my head, so I played "Who Will Be the Hat Rack?" with them and took turns hanging my hat from their ears.  Rock would shake his head until the hat fell on the ground, pick it up with his teeth, and hand it to me.  However, just like a dog, he wouldn't let go, so then we were playing "Tug of War".

Gabbrielle liked to parade around the barn with the hat on her head, but I had to stop her when she decided to dump it in a water trough.  The hat game was fun for a while until Gabbrielle yanked it and a chunk of my hair out of my head.  That ended that.

They were getting in so close to me that I had to put my feet up on each horse's chest to hold them back from actually climbing into my lap.  They'd come in closer, pushing my knees up into my face.  That got me laughing.  I was confident that they knew their boundaries and wouldn't actually step on me.  Rock did start pawing in front of my chair and I wrapped my legs around his leg to stop him.  Then we got in a tug of war over his leg.  Or maybe he thought we were fighting over my legs.  Let's just call it a leg wrestling contest.  That I won.  The horses understood it was all in good humor, so there were no spooks or freak outs.

Although I was on guard that something outside of us would spook them and they might jump even closer to me.  That's why I was keeping my feet off the ground, so they couldn't stomp on them.  When I first walked out there and sat down, I immediately shot back up to my feet when I saw that a neighbor had some kind of crane lifting a broken down vehicle 40-feet in the air.  I thought they were going to drop it, but they set it down gently, thank God.  I can only imagine how much hiring a crane crew cost to do that job.  I think people are better off just buying cars with engines that work, so they can relocate their vehicles by simply driving them.

Gabbrielle finally got a hold of my book when I set it down in the chair to go play with Bombay and let him be the hat rack.  I turned around to find the first couple of pages of my book shredded.  Things got really interesting when Rock disappeared, and then Lostine bit Gabbrielle on the rump, sending her into her stall.  I looked up and realized that all the horses were standing in the their assigned stalls waiting for me to feed them.  Every once in a while the horses do something to display their intelligence, and this was one of those amazing moments.  It was like organized crime.

The problem was that it was too early to feed them, and when I didn't succumb to their stares, Rock began pulling the gate away from the railing and pushing it back into it, making a loud crash.  When I didn't respond to that, he swung the gate farther and harder, causing these mini-explosions, which of course, didn't spook a single horse.  They all just stood and stared at me expectantly, hoping that Rock would annoy me enough that I would get up out of my chair and feed them.  Instead I closed and locked the gate, locking him into his stall.  That didn't deter him.  He then began kicking his food barrel.  I hollered at him, and only after he stood quietly for a few minutes did I finally feed them.

If I didn't wait for quiet, we'd end up having another sleepless night with a lot of banging coming from the barn.  We always have to be aware of the behaviors we are rewarding when it comes to both animals and humans.  They are always smarter than we might expect.


fernvalley01 said...

sounds like a fun afternoon

strivingforsavvy said...

What a great way to spend your afternoon! We had a raven at a barn I used to board at that had at least 30 sounds like it would bark, meow, croak like a frog, laugh, neigh, say some words etc. it was so fun. The laughing was the best because it caused me to laugh more then it went on for a while back and forth!

ellie k said...

When I was young my dad used to tell me if I caught a raven and split it's tongue it would be able to talk. Of course he knew I could not catch one or split it's tongue if I did. I will be 69 tomorrow and remember that for probably 65 years. So many fun things on the farm to keep a little girl busy and to enjoy the outside.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Today I found a different bone by the barn. This one was more like a hip and thigh bone of an animal. I threw that one away before the horses choked on it too, and left some bread crumbs for the ravens.